A big strategic statement (such as a core purpose, mission, or vision statement) shouldn’t simply be words on a plaque or page that don’t really shape day-to-day activities.

When you get a strategic statement right, you’ll use it on a daily basis to shape decisions, priorities, and approaches to what you do and how you do things.

For instance, your organization’s vision should make it clear what the bold promise is for its future. It should provide an attractive picture that helps employees better carry out their responsibilities to make the vision a reality.


Strategic Thinking Exercises – Testing Your Vision Statement Impact

How do you know if your vision statement is working as hard for you as it can?

Here’s one of our strategic thinking exercises to help you explore how well your big vision statement is suited to driving strategy and behaviors in your organization.

Ask these five questions:

  1. Is our vision statement primarily comprised of real, clear words people understand and use or is it primarily filled with business jargon?
  2. Is our vision statement one that could only describe your organization or could it apply to just about any organization?
  3. Does our vision statement sound like we talk inside our company or does it sound as if a consultant wrote it?
  4. Do employees know and understand our vision statement or is it generally a mystery to them?
  5. Does our vision statement shape big and small decisions or does it effectively sit on a shelf?

If your answers to the questions tend toward the first description in each question, you are on the right track. If your answers tend toward the latter description in each question, you should use additional strategic thinking exercises to explore how to better shape your vision statement. – Mike Brown

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There’s huge potential for video to capture and create powerful moments at an event as part of an overall content strategy.

Yet talking with an event organizer who had dispatched a staff member with a video camera to cover the organization’s annual event, the results were disappointing. While the organization’s event was emotional and transformative for attendees, none of that translated to the event video.

The problem was the staff member with a video camera was dispatched with no clear plan or a content strategy with direction on where to look for strong content creation opportunities.

Left to his own devices (literally and figuratively), the event video was meandering and lacked a strong storyline.

The answer is having a content strategy with a starting outline and plan on where to shoot video. There should also be a basic understanding of how to ferret out and take advantage of impromptu opportunities for great video. With the right video content strategy, a video shooter can capture a plethora of raw video footage suitable for multiple uses, including event marketing, highlight videos, and future content sharing.

cmworld photo

Content Strategy and Imagining Where Great Content Will Be at an Event

While every event is going to be different, here’s a list we created for the event organizer mentioned above to help a future video team in imagining where great content will be at an event.

We’re guessing, although it’s generic, this list will work as a starting point for many (most?) events.

Attendees and Groups

  • Attendees interacting with one another in new or very active ways.
  • Attendees voicing their ideas – whether about the conference content or personally important topics.
  • Movement or activity with the entire group or big segments of the group.
  • Opportunities to depict the entire attendee group together.
  • Reasons from attendees on why others should attend.

Emotional Content

  • Attendees having fun or experiencing other emotions during the event.
  • Casual and informal interactions.
  • Any kids or pets that are at the event.
  • Goodbye moments among attendees.
  • The most exciting moments during the event you can anticipate.
  • Content surprises the attendees don’t know about ahead of time.
  • Thank yous to attendees for attending.

Planned Content

  • Beginnings and endings of significant content sections.
  • Content from experienced speakers.
  • Content from genuine, less experienced speakers.
  • Moments tied to lyrics of songs you’re expecting to use with event video.

Behind the Scenes

  • Attendees getting to the event.
  • Attendees exploring the event space.
  • Extracurricular activities, excursions, or site seeing within the event.
  • Behind the scenes activities that reveal something about the event’s content.

Big Visual Impact

  • Shots of dramatic / cool aspects of the event space.
  • Instances where dramatic lighting will be used on stage or in other locations.
  • People with dramatic motions that don’t require words.

That’s our starting event video shooting list. What would you add to it? – Mike Brown


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“How strong is my organization’s social media strategy?”

9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy

Is your social media implementation working as well as it can? In less than 60 minutes with the new FREE Brainzooming ebook “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy,” you’ll have a precise answer to this question.

Any executive can make a thorough yet rapid evaluation of nine different dimensions of their social media strategies with these nine diagnostics. Download Your Free Copy of “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social  Strategy.”

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“How to Brand a Company – 7 Types of Brand Language You Should Use” is one of the most popular Brainzooming articles of the past couple years. This branding strategy article looks at seven different types of language (Simple, Emotional, Aspirational, Unusual, Connectable, Open, and Twistable) a brand should be using to fully communicate its brand promise, benefits, and overall messaging.

I received a tweet the other day asking for successful examples to back up the seven types of brand language identified in the post. Since I was working on a presentation I needed to complete ASAP, I was more than happy to abandon the presentation deadline and throw together an immediate answer to the tweet.

Yes, I clearly have a “focus” issue, but that’s a topic for another day.

Brand Language Examples

I created a quick grid (of course), and started filling in examples of each type of language, from both my own recollection and a few listings of popular advertising slogans.

7 Brand Langauage Examples

While not going for an exhaustive list of brand language examples, I noticed after tweeting off the jpeg of the table that “Just do it” from Nike showed up in two areas – both Simple and Aspirational.


Going back through the list of seven types of brand language, however, it seems that “Just do it” could also fit in several others:

  • Emotional (There is definitely an emotional component depending on its use)
  • Open (The phrase can mean multiple things from both a brand and a consumer perspective)
  • Twistable (It could be used as an admonition to someone else, a personal pep talk, plus serving as a brand promise)

The leaves only Unusual and Connectable as gaps for “Just do it.” While it’s never going to be unusual, it COULD be used in a Connectable fashion. One example would be to insert sports actions (i.e., slug, slam, dunk, pass, hurdle, putt, etc.) in place of “do.”

The Best Brand Language

This exploration raised two questions:

  1. Are there any other examples of brand language that uses five of the brand language types, and are there any that use more?
  2. If no other slogan checks off five different types of brand language on its own, does that mean “Just do it” is the best brand language ever?

I’d love to hear your thoughts about whether any other brand’s language works harder than “Just do it” does for Nike?

Because if there is one, I can’t name it. – Mike Brown

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The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

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This week’s “Inside the Executive Suite” from the Armada Executive Intelligence Brief newsletter focused on an intriguing article from Inc. online. The article identified reasons why major companies invest significant, seemingly unjustified amounts on startup businesses with scant revenues and no discernible business models.


The original article from Inc. by Dev Aujla claims major companies use these acquisitions as a new variation on research and development. A major corporation may be able to pick up a whole startup for many millions of dollars. Despite seeming like an excessive figure, the purchase price could still put the major corporation dollars ahead versus developing whatever the startup offers on its own.

Aujla highlights three reasons major companies target these acquisitions. They are typically looking for:

1) New learnings and research
2) The opportunity to more easily plug a hole in their product or market portfolio
3) Talent that moves them ahead in new areas

AEIB-GraphicThe folks at the Armada Executive Intelligence Brief used Aujla’s three items and offered strategic thinking questions for each of the three areas.

The strategic thinking questions provide a way for companies, even ones far beyond startup status, to develop strategies boosting their chances for acquisition or spin-off opportunities. Armada agreed to let us share the questions here for each of the three areas.

The remainder of this post with the strategic thinking questions comes directly from the Armada Executive Intelligence Brief newsletter and its “Inside the Executive Suite” edition.

Strategic Thinking Questions for Crafting Startup Strategy in Any Business

1. Developing New Learnings and Research

Many companies claim to be learning organizations. This is often professional development jargon for “educating the staff.” While education is important, it won’t prompt another company to pay a premium simply because your employees have current training.

Try this strategic flip, though. Instead of characterizing your company as a learning organization, characterize it as a “discovering” organization. With that change in strategic perspective, evaluate where you stand today and where you would like to be a year from now:

  • What is our organization discovering that no other party knows?
  • How many people inside our organization are hell-bent on discovering new technologies, capabilities, and possibilities to bring to market?
  • Who are the people and organizations outside our own that we are collaborating with on major discovery efforts?
  • What discoveries can we make happen at lower cost, with less risk and red tape, and at a markedly faster pace than bigger firms can?

These answers should stretch your organization to move beyond learning what everyone else knows into discovering breakthrough knowledge with real value to outside parties.

2. Filling Holes in Markets, Audiences, or Product Portfolios

Aggressively examine market, audience, and product strategy gaps at other organizations to discover missing elements you can fill through your own exploration.

  • Which organizations have bigger, more sweeping product visions than ours? What gaps exist in their product portfolios we might be able to supplement through our narrower focus on product and market development?
  • What markets adjacent to ones we serve include competitors with missing elements in their market, audience, or product mixes?
  • Are there companies in related or even far removed categories lacking strong platforms for innovation that our discovery strategy could readily address?

Don’t think about fixing everything with these discovery efforts. Focus on the minimum standard product or market development allowing another organization to readily fill a gap by eventually acquiring what you are doing.

3. Gaining New Talent

Consider how your organization pursues new talent. Is there a deliberate attempt to hire the types and caliber of people most ready to help your organization discover and grow along a valuable path?

While you may be hiring to clear standards, evaluate – if you haven’t already – who will be the “explorers” you need to discover the knowledge, markets, audiences, and products with the greatest potential value. Think about these questions:

  • What deliberate actions are we taking to bring on extraordinary discoverers?
  • What steps are we taking to identify and target emerging talent, i.e., people who aren’t as well known, but are about to become rock star talents?
  • What relationships are in place (or can we develop) with educational institutions that are doing new work and introducing new programs in areas of discovery for our organization? (BTW, you may need to be looking at grade schools, middle schools, and even home schooling programs.)

It’s clear that answering these questions won’t lead to simply placing online ads and waiting for your email inbox to fill with too many resumes! – via “Inside the Executive Suite” 


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I presented both a workshop and a breakout session at last month’s Social Media Strategy Summit in Dallas. This was my second time attending a Social Media Strategy Summit this year, and conference producer Breanna Jacobs and the team from GSMI do a fantastic job of bringing together both wonderful presenters and experienced attendees together in a very interactive learning environment.

Here are a few highlights of the tweets, insights, and audience reactions to the social media strategy ideas shared at the Dallas event.

Social Media Strategy and Customer Service

Via Vanessa Sain-Dieguez (@VSDieguez) of @HiltonHotels

  • You don’t want to “train” your customers to tweet and get better attention than when you call.
  • It’s vital to listen for people mentioning your brand in multiple ways, even when someone isn’t mentioning your brand directly. For example, if the location on a tweet or Facebook update suggests a person is at your location with an issue, you want to be able to identify that and respond.
  • Hilton layered its social media-based customer services activities into pre-existing protocols between its franchisees and customer service group. This move minimized issues that might have developed if social media customer service were treated differently. That’s not to say that delivering customer service via social is simple. “Scalability is our biggest challenge every day.”
  • Successful real time marketing is about what’s relevant, not what’s trending.

Via Jeff Gibbard (@jgibbard)

  • It’s easy for customers to be rude to a logo on Twitter or Facebook. That’s not so if they sense a person on the other end. That’s why it’s important to sign your customer service social media in some way to show there’s a person involved on the brand’s end.

Social Media Strategy Insights from Adrian Parker of @Patron

Quick disclaimer – I was one of three people who won some of the new Roca Patron Tequila for live tweeting the most during the Adrian Parker presentation.


Nevertheless, Adrian had a plethora of great strategic insights and paraquotes from his diverse career experience.

  • “Outsource your thinking, but not your decisions.”
  • “Your social strategy should be something your competitor would never do.”
  • “A best practice isn’t a strategy. It’s something you should be doing anyway.”
  • “Good strategy is inspired by, but not limited to, current customer behavior.”
  • “A good strategy should make you nervous.”
  • “Leadership is plural. Vision is singular.” Multiple people can lead against the sole vision.

An Attendee Recap

Dan Vadeboncoeur (@danvadeboncoeur) attended the SMSSummit and shared his recap on take-aways on his Media Nerds podcast. I tweeted Dan that I appreciated the shout out, especially since he sat in on both of my sessions.

Video Highlights from the Social Media Strategy Summit

In a great example of using content providers to create even more content from an event, a video crew was onsite the second day of the conference to film brief interviews with #SMSSummit presenters. There is a YouTube page with all of the videos, plus here are several from yours truly on social media and content marketing strategy.

See the video at: http://youtu.be/sOuBJzHvRBQ

See the video at: http://youtu.be/Vkf6Xu2HKWs

See the video at: http://youtu.be/MQkdKal2rtM

Wait, There’s More

This quick recap doesn’t do justice to the breadth of content at the #SMSSummit. Look for another post with additional highlights coming soon! – Mike Brown


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“How strong is my organization’s social media strategy?”

9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy

Is your social media implementation working as well as it can? In less than 60 minutes with the new FREE Brainzooming ebook “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy,” you’ll have a precise answer to this question.

Any executive can make a thorough yet rapid evaluation of nine different dimensions of their social media strategies with these nine diagnostics. Download Your Free Copy of “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social  Strategy.”

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“That was a big focus group.”

This comment was from Nancy Rosenow, executive director of Nature Explore, about a large-scale Brainzooming creative thinking session we designed and facilitated for its annual Leadership Institute.

A new type of focus group was what the large-scale creative thinking session was, even though it took place in the midst of a professional development conference.

The Case for a New Type of Focus Group

If you think about a traditional focus group, it’s an odd environment.

You bring individual groups of recruited strangers together who share some common characteristics (usually including geography) to react to pre-developed ideas or concepts. While they may engage in a brief group activity about the concepts, the main communication is usually one person reacting to what the focus group moderator or another participant has said. That result is a lot of one-person talking, everyone else listening, and relatively inefficient learning experience.

At the Brainzooming sessions we designed and facilitated the Leadership Institute (and for a similar one the previous day for KC Digital Drive), we created a different experience for participants with varied strategic thinking exercises designed specifically for them.

While we had geographically diverse individuals working together in four-to-six person groups, there were nearly twenty of those groups active simultaneously. With no dedicated facilitators for the groups, we had had staff from the organization walking among the tables to answer questions and provide creative encouragement.


We accomplished this with a poster-based set of strategic thinking exercises. Participants could weigh in on three topics of interest to event organizers:

  1. What opportunities and challenges the attendees foresaw in creating and maintaining outdoor classrooms (the focus of the Institute)
  2. Attendee reactions nearly forty potential topics for educational modules
  3. Ways attendees would change their selected modules to make them more helpful

The net result a tremendous volume of input from the diverse participants, and all it took was approximately 45 minutes of event time for participants.

Strategic Thinking Exercises Designed for Broad Input

If you have a large group of your target audience members assembled, this about the value of a new type of focus group. You’ll get more people (who are both fundamental similarities and stark differences) working together, generating ample content through multiple periods of intense, collaborative interaction as they work on new ideas.

Sound intriguing?

Give me a call or email, and let’s discuss how we can make it happen for your organization! – Mike Brown

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The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

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A linkbait article showed up on Facebook the other day about an atheist (who called himself, “Not gonna pray”) writing to Andrew W.K., the advice columnist at the Village Voice. The letter was about the foolishness of praying for his brother who had just been diagnosed with cancer.

The linkbait part of the headline focused on the columnist’s response which was, of course, labeled “EPIC.”

Andrew W.K.’s response focused, in part, on the humility prayer requires and the importance of understanding our place in creation. He pointed out that getting on your knees to pray is “about showing respect for the size and grandeur of what we call existence — it’s about being humble in the presence of the vastness of life, space, and sensation, and acknowledging our extremely limited understanding of what it all really means.”


He went on to suggest to “Not gonna pray” that out of respect for his grandmother’s request for prayer, he should get down on his knees and think about his brother (part of creation) as hard as he can. Think about him more than he ever had before. Think about all the wonderful aspects of him and “tell him” how much the letter writer loves him.

The article concluded by mentioning how powerful the response from Andrew W.K. was. This was required to reinforce how “EPIC” it was, and simply good form since about 90% of the linkbait article was lifted directly from the Village Voice (a great example of really poor content curation). Hundreds of comments followed and ads for articles on miracle pills, drunken celebrity moments, and important laws I need to know about in Overland, KS rounded out the article. (All that is why I’m not including a link to the linkbait article; you have enough details to search for it if you want to read it.)

The Linkbait Article on Prayer Got ONE Part Right

Since this is an example of prayer being discussed in social media, I’m jumping on it as a strategic thinking topic ideal for Brainzooming that needn’t be relegated to my long-dormant spirituality blog.

Andrew W.K. DID make an EPIC point in his response about prayer: the absolute importance of humility and the realization that no matter how much we want to think, believe, and fool ourselves, we AREN’T in control of the bigger picture. From trying in fits and starts to develop my own prayer life, that’s an unmistakable conclusion.

The unfortunate part of the response is that he suggests “Not gonna pray” should pray to “creation” (which can do nothing about prayer) instead of the “creator.” He wants “Not gonna pray” to be humbled next to a creation that, quite frankly, as a human being with incredible abilities to think, to reason, to understand his place in creation, and to participate in a spiritual life, he is SUPERIOR to in the most important ways.

It’s one thing to think you are “praying” to your brother, and essentially sending him good thoughts. And I guess that’s become the popular, watered-down version of what prayer is since people are allowed to talk about it without being too offensive or triggering a lawsuit from someone who doesn’t believe in prayer and feels his or her sensibilities are being trampled by others praying.

It’s one thing, but it’s a little tiny portion of prayer.

Prayer to the Creator IS EPIC

At the heart of prayer is demonstrating our humility to the creator (and not aspects of creation) and becoming open, willing, and eager to understand and actively participate in what we CAN understand of God’s plan.

And that does require humility, and a complete sense that we don’t control things as we might like to believe.

While you might think this topic is far afield for Brainzooming, the original linkbait article showed up in my Facebook feed with a well-known social media expert saying it was a great example of why you might like prayer. Since he’s only about 25% right, as may be the case on many topics on which he purports to be an expert, it’s fair game for somebody out here to fill in the other 75% of the answer he missed.

And for my friends who have said to me, “I don’t understand how someone so analytical and so focused on strategic thinking can believe in prayer,” I have one thing to say. My belief doesn’t come from fuzzy feelings. My belief comes from demonstrated evidence on a daily basis: the more I surrender, the more I give up control, the more I look to the creator as the source of direction in my life, the more things make sense in the big picture.

It’s not a feeling for me. It’s a daily proof.

And, in my humility and inadequacies as a person, that proof is EPIC. – Mike Brown


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Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative thinking and ideas! For an organizational innovation and strategic thinking success boost, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative plans to efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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